Born and raised in Calcutta, one of the most populous urban environments in India, my early connection to Nature was tenuous at best. I was terrified of spiders, cockroaches and other bugs that thrive in the warm, humid climate of my hometown. When I first moved to North America, the Big Outdoors felt like a disagreeable place far from creature comforts. It seemed way too uncomfortable and far too close to unpredictable creatures!
Yet, the wide open sky, the vast Pacific, the rolling hills and the ever-present green slowly drew me in. In my own time, I decided to gently begin to explore nature in steady small steps.
I began by noticing the trees in my neighborhood, finding pleasure in learning their names. Oak, Sycamore, Madrone, Willow…I began to connect names I had read in books with the shape of the leaf and the texture of the bark. I was so delighted when I formally met my first Magnolia and watched it burst into blossom. It was like a new friend whose name I would never again forget. I developed Wisteria envy, wanting a house of my own just so I could watch the Wisteria cascade along the fence.
I began to expand into the animal world as well. I learned to look for the red tailed hawks in Glen Canyon and had a delightful encounter with a curious little bobcat by the Sutro Baths. I learned the joys of tide-pooling; in fact it felt like a special access pass to an entirely other world: slow-moving and mysterious! I marveled at the freedom a snorkel can give you and the new world of fish that opened up with it. I swam with the turtles in Hawaii and looked up into the tree home shared by half a dozen sleeping owls.
In time, a friend’s gift of a bird-feeder opened up a whole new world right outside my window by introducing me to the playful realm of finches, jays, juncos, towhees, sparrows and other new winged friends. I was excited to find a hummingbird feeder, so I could watch those magical wings flutter so close to my window. I decided to plant a lavender bush to watch yellow bumble bees go about their busy-ness.
And through it all, I learned that nature wasn’t all about flying cockroaches that were out to get me. And oh! a little EMDR certainly helped with the childhood trauma of scary bugs! I even surprised myself by being curious, rather than terrified, when I began to meet snakes on some of the quieter bay area trails. I had moved from a place of fear to a feeling of awe and delight at the fascinating life-forms that surround us.
Nature as Therapist
Nature is a place of great beauty, great mystery and never-ending delight. It is a teacher unlike any other: ever present and always patient. It is where we go to empty ourselves of our everyday burdens and allow ourselves to be more free, more able to be present in the NOW. Nature unfailingly renews itself and in bearing witness, we are gifted with lessons for life, lessons that resonate deep inside of us and activate our innate healing potential.
I invite you to step away from your computer, your smart phone, your television, and take a walk in your own neighborhood. Be curious about the birds of Telegraph Hill, the coyotes in Glen Canyon, the mushrooms in Golden Gate Park, and also the birds at your window, the ladybugs, squirrels, snails and hummingbirds that are all around us. Look up at the redwoods, the graceful pines, the ever-present eucalyptus trees. Notice your neighbor’s bougainvilleas, azaleas, jade plants, and even the clever little vine growing up through a crack in the sidewalk.
May you find delight in nature as you go about your everyday, and may it bring you a little respite, a carefree laugh, a spring in your step, and a moment away from all your cares.
I wish you loving, gentle lessons and deep healing through Nature.